Warning against Taiwan
China has now stated, in no uncertain terms, that Taiwan is an integral part of its territory. Its military put out a strong message on Taiwan last Saturday, vowing to "safeguard the territory of our motherland." The People's Liberation Army (PLA) air force released a video and series of commemorative envelopes showing recent Chinese air force missions around the island, which Beijing views as a breakaway province. "It is the sacred duty of any PLA pilot to safeguard the territory of our motherland," reads the text on the envelopes, which feature pictures of PLA warplanes and pilots on flights near Taiwan. If anything, this can lead to an awkward situation given the age-old differences between Beijing and Taipei. Given its limitations, Taiwan can ill-afford to retaliate. But, sans doubt, all these exercises are clearly aimed at drawing the attention of Washington. In a clear warning to the US, Global Times posted a story on the PLA's English-language website stating that the deployment should be seen as a "part of the country's warning to Taiwan secessionists" and their supporters in the US. Indeed, it sent a clear warning that the US should act cautiously on the Taiwan question and not interfere in China's internal affairs. Taiwan has been self-governed since a bloody civil war ended in 1949, forcing the defeated nationalists to flee to the island and continue to rule under the banner of the Republic of China. Though both Taipei and Beijing view the island as a part of China, neither government recognises the legitimacy of the opposing side and there is a strong pro-independence sentiment within the current ruling party in Taiwan. The two governments have a long history of international brinksmanship in their efforts to gain economic opportunities and diplomatic support from governments around the world. The United States maintains close unofficial links with Taiwan and provides them with arms under the Taiwan Relations Act, but, oddly, maintains formal diplomatic relations only with Beijing. Interestingly, while Washington does not officially challenge Communist China's claim over Taiwan, the official US policy simply states that people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait recognise that there is but one China and Taiwan is a part of China. But, under US President Donald Trump, the United States' has appeared enthusiastic to move closer to Taiwan, a move which has caused deep concern in Beijing. "Every inch of our great motherland's territory cannot be separated from China," President Xi has said. The Trump administration has sought closer ties to President Tsai's government, angering Beijing by recently signing two deals to tighten ties with the island, including a travel act which will allow more official visits between the US and Taiwan. Beijing has stated that the move, which allows US representatives to meet officials from the self-ruled island, will hurt bilateral relations. US President Donald Trump defied a warning from Beijing and signed a measure allowing American officials to step-up exchanges with Taiwan, a move which will strain the already tense Sino-US relations. Trump's endorsement of the Taiwan Travel Act comes as Beijing and Washington are in a stand-off over trade and Beijing's attempts to boost its influence worldwide, with the US House of Representatives proposing that China's cultural outposts in the US be registered as foreign agents. The Chinese Embassy in Washington said in a statement that China was "strongly dissatisfied with" the travel act and firmly opposed it. "The relevant clauses of the Taiwan Travel Act severely violate the one-China principle," a statement from the Chinese Embassy in Washington said. The statement said that the US should stop pursuing any official ties with Taiwan or try improving its current relations with Taiwan in any substantive way. The bill said it should be the policy of the United States to allow officials at all levels of the government to travel to Taiwan to meet their counterparts. The US executive branch has sent more senior officials to Taiwan since Trump has assumed office. Before his inauguration, Trump angered Beijing by speaking over the phone to Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen and suggesting that he might use the so-called one-China policy as a bargaining chip to advance the US interests in trade, currency and strategic issues, such as the disputed South China Sea. Diplomat Li Kexin warned that Beijing would seize Taiwan by force if the US warships visited Taiwan. Beijing's statement that its patience is being tested again and again with such provocations must be taken in context. Political correctness is mandatory in diplomacy. And, all this is leading to a situation that must be averted. The sooner, the better.